In the week after the international break, Lyon would have been hoping to start a new Champions League campaign. However, after being eliminated during the final qualifying stage by Real Sociedad, ‘Les Gones’ find themselves in the Europa League in a group alongside Thursday’s opponents Betis as well as Croatian sides Rijeka and Portuguese outfit Vitoria Guimaraes. Lyon will be fairly happy with their group as on paper, they have stronger squads than Rijeka and Guimaraes, but may face problems in both fixtures against an exciting Betis side.
Despite recruiting Gael Danic and Henri Bedimo, Lyon Chairman Jean Michel Aulas decided to sell Lisandro Lopez to Al-Gharafa and defensive stalwart Dejan Lovren to Southampton. Also there were many questions with regards to Bafetimbi Gomis’ future, with a move to Newcastle breaking down at an advanced stage. On a more positive note, the hugely talented duo of Yoann Gourcuff and Clement Grenier remained at the club despite rumours suggesting otherwise.
Betis had a troubling transfer window, losing star man Benat to Athletic Bilbao and prominent members of the squad in Pozuelo and Canas to Swansea City. Yet they have adequately replaced these men with the signings of pacey winger Cedric on a free from Numancia and playmaker Verdu from Espanyol, again for nothing.
Lyon have lost 4 of their last 5 in all competitions, including losses against Evian and a poor home display against Stade de Reims. Betis started off their league campaign with two defeats but have dramatically improved of late, with an impressive 3-1 win against Valencia at the weekend. Betis’s progression to the Europa League group stage was relatively effortless, beating Jabolonec 8-1 on aggregate.
Head to Head
Real Betis and Lyon have never played against each other in a competitive fixture before; however, Lyon’s recent record in Spain will provide painful viewing for OL fans. Including their defeat to Real Sociedad this season, Lyon have only won once in their last 8 trips to Spain. However, this victory did come in the Europa League in Bilbao last season. With this in mind, Betis’ coach Pepe Mel will be confident of his team’s chances, especially if the Benito Villamarin is anywhere near full, as the home fans are known for creating an intimidating atmosphere for the away side.
Tactics and Key battles
One would expect Remi Garde’s men to line up in a variation of a 4-5-1, with the previously exiled Gomis leading the line and the talented duo of Fekir and Lacazette on the wings. The most important battle of the night will most probably be the in the midfield with Fofana and Gonalons providing the solidity in front of the back four, giving Clement Grenier license to create. Betis will probably start the match in a deviation of a 4-3-3 with Jorge Molina flanked by the pacey Cedric and Juanfran. The midfield battle will be key and Betis are well equipped with the attacking talents of Verdu and Salva Sevilla, who notched a brace at the weekend. Remi Garde will be mindful of the pace that Betis possess on the flanks and will try to counter that with the full backs pressing on.
Betis will look to impose themselves on the game early on, but Lyon are more than capable of coming away with at least a point if they perform to their capacity. A lot will depend on the performances of Lyon’s Gomis and Grenier and whether they can hit Betis, who will most probably dominate possession, on the counter attack.
Prediction: Real Betis 1-1 Lyon
Josh Mart, Get French Football News